Mother of slain New Orleans comedian demands better communication from District Attorney
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It’s been more than three months since Brandon “Boogie B” Montrell was shot and killed two days before Christmas. He was parked in front of a Rouses after shopping for supplies for the holiday. That’s when police say Montrell was caught in the middle of a shootout.
In January, police arrested 20-year-old Jabril Cowart in Houston in connection to Montrell’s death. The victim’s mother, Sherilyn Price, says the tears have not stopped.
“Because of all the crying, I have what looks like permanently swollen eyes now. It still catches in my throat when I say ‘the death of Brandon,’” Price said.
Price says Montrell was shot and killed as his comedy career was in full swing in Los Angeles.
“Brandon was supposed to take care of us when we got older,” She said. “I didn’t get to see him get married. I didn’t get to see him become an older man. I didn’t get to see him achieve the stardom, the fame, and success he was trying to achieve.”
While she grieves, she is upset with the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office for not letting her know when Cowart was being extradited back to the city and when his bond hearing was scheduled on Thursday.
She says a friend who happened to look at the court docket that day only found out about the hearing 30 minutes beforehand. Price didn’t have enough time to drive from Slidell to get to court.
It wasn’t until 4:01 p.m. that Price received an email from someone from the district attorney’s office. Screening Victim/Witness Advocate Melissa Robles wrote to Price that the hearing was taking place and a bond would be set. Robles also sent her a Zoom link at 4:15 p.m. to watch the hearing remotely, but Price wanted advance notice in order to be in court in person and she feels there was a violation of her victim’s rights.
“It’s dehumanizing. It’s offensive. It feels like a continuation of your victimization,” she said.
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The district attorney’s office sent FOX 8 a statement about Montrell’s case, acknowledging that they tried to make contact with Price before Cowart’s hearing:
“To be clear, the DA’s Office is privy to the Magistrate Court list only a few hours prior to the First Appearance. Our Victim Witness Advocate has engaged Ms. Price multiple times including informing her that the extradition was imminent. As soon as the ADA handling the case was made aware of the defendant’s name on the docket, prior to the defendant’s actual first appearance in Magistrate Court, someone from our team reached out to engage Ms. Price and provided her with information to watch the proceeding. Following, our team sent her more information including the defendant’s bond being set at $500,000. We certainly understand the anger and grief Ms. Price is enduring waiting for justice to be served, and she can rest assured that our dedicated team of prosecutors are working hard to see justice through for her and the countless other victims in this city.”
FOX8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti says the workload of the DA’s office has often interfered with fulfilling victims’ rights.
“It’s been codified that victims have rights to things like a victim impact statement for a sentencing hearing and things like that,” Raspanti said. “Ideally, the DA’s office would contact them and there are liaisons with the victims and the victims’ families but it doesn’t always work out. It’s unfortunate but sometimes things don’t work out and communications don’t happen.”
Because of the communication issues Price has had with the DA’s office, she’s thrown her support for House Bill 321. State Representative Debbie Villio introduced the measure that would create pilot programs in Orleans, East Baton Rouge, and Caddo Parishes.
Those programs would make court documents easy to find online, for both criminal and juvenile cases. The bill would also form a crime victim database through the Attorney General’s Office that would notify loved ones of upcoming court dates, the latest on certain proceedings, and more information about their cases - all through text or email.
“It’s a real first step in giving victims some comfort and information and helping them navigate the justice that they seek,” Price said.
She hopes the legislation would help families dealing with criminal cases across the board.
“If I can’t get justice then what chance do they have? If I can’t get information, if this is what it takes for me to get information, what chance do they have?” she said.
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